Conflict & Justice

Fighting continues as NATO Patriot missiles head to Turkey


Syrian rebels take cover during clashes with regime forces at the Umayyad Mosque in the old city of Aleppo hours before the Syrian army retook control of the complex on October 14, 2012.


Tauseef Mustafa

Patriot missiles from NATO were en route to Turkey Wednesday, as fighting in neighboring Syria continued to rage on. 

Rebels announced the surrounding of an air base near Damascus, as they get closer to closing in on the capital, Reuters reported

"We still do not control the air base but the fighters are choking it off. We hope within the coming hours we can take it," said Abu Nidal, a spokesman for the rebel Habib al-Mustafa brigade, adding that the opposition forces had also captured an air brigade not far from the base, killing and imprisoning some while others escaped, according to Reuters. 

Though the accounts from both sides are impossible to verify, the rebels have been making a concerted push towards Damascus, and Assad's forces are responding with a strong counteroffensive in the city's suburbs, the New York Times reported.

On Tuesday, the government blamed rebels for an attack that hit a school, killing at least 29, including several children. 

The German, American, and Dutch air missiles will be set up along the border between Turkey and Syria, and will help Turkey to defend themselves from any further spill-over of the violence. 

Stray mortar rounds and shells from Syria have killed five Turks so far, the Globe and Mail reported

"Turkey has asked for NATO's support, and we stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a press conference, according to UPI. "To the Turkish people we say: We are determined to defend you and your territory. To anyone who would want to attack Turkey we say don't even think about it."

NATO officials stressed that the missiles' role would be defensive only, and that the weapons were not a precursor to a no-fly zone or offensive operation. 

Turkey had requested the missiles last month. The Patriots are able to target ballistic missiles and armed warplanes, should they cross over the border, the Los Angeles Times reported.

More from GlobalPost: Turkey requests NATO defense missile system